Monday, August 9, 2010

July 31st, Buffalo Run

Awesome, interesting, challenging, extraordinary!This run is an invitation, a peek into the history of another culture, a sharing of an experience where you have been prayed over, an encouragement to find your Spirit. This is Not just another run to add to your weekend activities, this run can be a weekend in itself. I really am not to sure if I can properly critique this run as I have nothing to compare it to.
There were 50ish runners, 3 events a 5k, 10k, and half marathon. Overheard at the start line was some talk about a bit of trouble with the water stations. I'm glad at this point that we are prepared to be self sufficient, although it turns out that there was nothing to worry about and there was more support that I expected.
Let me mention now that this was my slowest half marathon, ever! I have never been fast, I usually average a 2:35 for the half's (I have just started doing fulls) and I have never run hills. I live in Manitoba! I really need to run some hills, I've heard there is one in Winnipeg that I have to go find.So my time was nothing great (2:55:47), but the run was. I spent about 5 minutes taking pictures along the way as well, thanks to garmin for letting me know how much time I was moving and what the time I stopped for amounted to.
A little foreshadowing; The race director walks by as we are waiting for everything to start, and he asks us if we are 'looking forward to a tough course' he has a huge grin on his face. We smile nicely and answer 'of course.' Then looking around, seeing a wall of rocky hill beside the road we are standing on, G looks at us and says "I never really gave the course much thought, I wonder what we are in for!"
Awesome! The people were great! Things started out a bit differently than other races. The start time was for 8:30 am, thinking this was race time, many people may have been surprised to find that there was Opening Ceremonies to start us all off. We had done some digging on the website and had found that there were going to be different ceremonies happening as well over the weekend, and we three (+1 husband) were very much hoping to be able to see some of them. We were not able to lock down any info on some of the things mentioned, so to be a part of so much was incredible. But that's getting ahead of myself.... The Opening Ceremony was simple and sweet. There was an introduction and a bit of history to their Society, as well as to a history of the spot we were beginning our run from.In our race kits we each received a small satchel which contained sweet grass and a separate pouch of tobacco, we were asked to run with them. Each of the satchels had been prayed over for each one of us. Along with the history of the Buffalo Runners Society, the location we were starting from, we were also educated on the history of the Blackfoot Aboriginal people who would 'run down' the buffalo. There was a place for all the runners. There were those who lead a stampede, those who flanked the edges of the herd, and those who harassed the back of the herd to keep them moving. The elder suggested that we think of our place among those who went before us, consider where we would be. (I already knew I would enjoy harassing the back of the pack!) The buffalo provided everything for their people, from food to tools to medicines. We were asked to explore our spirit. One elder explained "when you run it is with your Spirit, not your body". I'm not sure how to expand on that except to say... He's right! He encouraged us to call our name, to ourselves, to bring out our spirit for the run. It was really beautiful. One of the Society members running was also a drummer and was able to drum for us a song as we readied ourselves. An elder also asked if we would all shake each others hands, and then we were sent to the start line after a prayer.
The start was counted down by the race director, and we were off! This is a small community of Pincher Creek and they were out to cheer us on as we ran through the areas that were in town. Then we were out on the highways and roadways.
There were hills that seemed to be not so bad as I looked up at them, but as I ran along them I found that it doesn't matter how long you drag out a hill... it is still going up! So, several miles later... Just when you think you are UP, you turn a corner and meet the next section of that hill, with gravel underfoot to add to the comfort! (yes that is sarcasm) I was in my VFF's and would have very much liked a smaller gravel, but this was stones. I did say interesting above. Now I know what to expect on this type of terrain in the future. My husband had taken off his VFF's early in the run and made it through 3/4 of this terrain barefoot! WOW! I'm not that great at being light on my feet yet. With the VFF's I found this section to still feel like I was bruising the bottoms of my feet, but the recovery was quick when the terrain changed.
This is the long slow climb up. We followed the road to the very top. Here we are at the top of the hill looking back down at what we have just run. And just as we think we are at the top...... This is what we see! I found it almost laughable. This is also where the gravel began.I really don't know much about hills or elevation, but I'm learning. To begin with in Winnipeg we are running at about an elevation of 750-800ft, or so my garmin says. We began this run at 3776ft went down a bit and back up to 3994ft, down to 3732ft, back up to 3960ft and finished with a beautiful downhill glide to 3501ft! Interesting when there hasn't been any hill training?!

I can really enjoy the downhills as it is the only way I can pick up speed! The view was amazing along the way. A funny note was to watch out for the wildlife along the way, meaning the possible cattle we may encounter in the fields we ran through.I feel like I'm neglecting the volunteer support though. So we have had about 4 water stops along the way at this point, (about halfway) the 1st stop had water. Each stop after had water, orange slices, and bananas, and I was running last at this point! There were small Dixie cups of water (a really great size, as I have heard many people complain about over filled water cups at previous runs) or you could take a bottle along with you from some of the stations. At the top of this hill with the wind mill, there was a water stop, a little girl saw me struggling with the hill and she brought the water cup to me. She was sooooo sweet! Thank you! I don't think I could say enough about the people who volunteered their time and came out to support us. Some of the water came out of the back of trucks, there was someone travelling along the course to make sure no one was hurt. This sounds like something that happens at all races, but take a look at the next picture... They drove UP this to make sure everyone was doing okay!And finally at the top! It is pretty much all downhill from here! WOOHOO!! Way at the bottom there is another water station with some very cheerful people, and again more oranges and bananas!
As we find ourselves approaching the finish there are the people who are cheering, car horns are blowing, and as allot of the run was very quiet and introspective I thought it a neat change of mind set to be finishing with such a party sound. The finish line was in the arbour, and as we finish our names were each called and we were greeted by an elder who shook our hands.
This was the beginning of the day!
After our run was complete and everyone was in, we all met a little later to be part of that days Grand Entry Celebration where the elders danced us into the center of the arbour and around, then the men dancers came and danced around us, and then the women elders as well. It was amazing to see the culture that was blended into the event that I am ever so grateful to have had the opportunity to share this experience. Again, I must add that this was not the end!
After the Grand Entry we headed back to a quiet area where we were told stories and the tobacco from our satchels was collected. We were also told how the prayers from our satchels were going to go with us wherever we went. Beautiful! There was a 'Capturing Ceremony' a little later on in the afternoon to induct a new member into their society. We were able to sit through and experience this, and a feast after that of homemade beef stew and bannock buns! MMMMMMM! What a day!
Next year we are all planning on going again! We will also plan for our sitters to know how long we will be gone for...... a while.
This is NOT just another run, I think I would express this as a spiritual experience that you need to be open to. There are no medals for finishing, I hold onto my satchel as that memory holder, the awards are given to those who came in first, and what beautiful gifts they were. Timing is allot for some, and as we all know how I feel about being late, I have to mention that when things are done on more of a spiritual mindset, timing is not all the same? As I have discovered over the past few years, Gods' timing and mine are Not the same thing (and He is always right!). So if you would enjoy a run like this remember to plan for allot of extra time, give yourself some time to enjoy the experience, and remember that you never know how much time you will need for an experience.... Especially one like this!

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